"I'm from the 80's, home of the heroin, era of the hustlers. . ."- Jay-Z
While the use of coca leaves as an intoxicant dates back three thousand years, crack cocaine, a crystallized form of cocaine, was developed during the cocaine boom of the 1970s and its use spread in the mid-1980s.
By 1981, cocaine was already on the streets of various US cities. By 1984, an enormous surplus of the trafficking of drugs had begun to take place. Most of the drugs were imported as south as Miami, Florida from island countries like the Dominican Republic. Once on US soil, dealers realized that the prices were dropping on their product due to a large mass of the drug; the price of cocaine dropped as much as 80%. Soon, cocaine was turned into a form that could be smoked called "crack". Crack had numerous advantages over cocaine, it was purer, produced easy, ready to use, could be broken up and sold in smaller quantities. It also turned out to be more profitable for dealers. The purity of the drug was the kicker.
Okay, you're sleep, here's a better explanation.
Because of cocaine’s high cost, it has long been considered a “rich man’s drug.” Crack, on the other hand, is sold at prices so low that even teens can afford to buy it—at first. The truth is that once a person is addicted, the expense skyrockets in direct ratio to the increasing amount needed to support the habit. One can become addicted to crack after using it once.
Crack cocaine was soon seen on the streets of D.C., New York City, Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, and Detroit just to name a few.
What serves as a testament to crack's cheaper prices was the fact that it could be bought for less than a modern day gallon of gas. Crazy, right?
Reagan's "War on Drugs"
The Drug Era of the 80's were a time of hysteria. On October 14, 1982, President Ronald Reagan declared a "War on Drugs". President Richard Nixon, was the first to coin the phrase "War on Drugs", declaring it America's number one public enemy. During the Nixon years the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was created. When Reagan was in office, he turned to explicit military intervention and aid. In a speech done in 1982, Reagan declared that illicit drug use was a threat to America's national security, and there is no greater threat than that.
Let me stop for a second, I'll get back to Reagan.
The Medellin Cartel
In November of 1975, police in Columbia seized 600 kilograms of cocaine which to this day is the largest drug seizure ever. In response, a group of drug traffickers known as the Medellin Cartel murdered 40 people in one weekend. This mass killing is known as the "Medellin Massacre". Soon after the cartel took the reigns in the Columbian drug industry. In 1979, co-founder of the cartel, Carlos Lehder opens up trafficking operations with plans to smuggle drugs into the United States from his newly bought island in the Bahamas. Once the 1980's hit, it was on for the Medellin Cartel.
The Medellin Cartel rose to power in 1981 with some very powerful alliances that included Pablo Escobar, the Ochoa family, Jose Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha and others. The new alliance of kingpins devised plans to manufacture and transport cocaine into the United States.
Pablo Escobar became very popular around this time. In his home of Medellin, he worked to build up the community, and provide citizens with chances to succeed although they lived in the slums. These acts of kindness got him elected into the Columbian Congress although he was forced out a year later. But the success had a darker side. Pablo Escobar was incredibly violent and his quest for power within the Colombian government led to a stand-off between the cartel and the government. During the 1980's, the cartel revolted against the government's threats to extradite the traffickers to the United States. Pablo Escobar is thought to be responsible for the murder of hundreds of government officials, police, prosecutors, judges, journalists and innocent bystanders.
In 1984 the aforementioned kingpins were infiltrated by DEA informant Barry Seal, and they all were indicted. Seal was later murdered by a hired assassin of the cartel.
Okay back to Reagan's "War on Drugs".
In that same year of 1984, First Lady Nancy Reagan launches her "Just Say No" anti-drug campaign. Reagan's campaign was mainly for children growing up in the 1980's and her goal was to educate them on recreational drug use and give them ways to say "no" when asked to partake in using those drugs.
By this time, Reagan had escalated his war against drugs and in 1986 he had signed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, which gave Reagan over 1 billion dollars to help fight this war that had ravaged inner city America. The “War on Drugs” that was declared in the early 1980s has been a primary contributor to the enormous growth in the prison system. Drug related arrests have tripled since the 1980's,
Here's a few other numbers to consider: at the time of the new drug law, drug related emergencies had risen 110%, and a year later, in 1987, the drug had been available in 46 US States including the District of Columbia.
Earlier in 1987, co-founder of the Medellin Cartel, Carlos Lehder was caught and convicted of drug smuggling. Lehder extradited to the United States and sentenced to life plus 135 years without parole in Federal prison.
The term "crack baby" applies to pregnant women who use crack cocaine which then exposes their fetus to the drug. This was a term commonly used in the 1980's into the 1990's and those exposed would consequentially grow up challenged in one area or another, either physically, emotionally, or mentally. US officials feared that this would put a strain on America's next generation; it would cognitively and behaviorally set the youth behind. Children were definitely the most innocent people of the crack epidemic.
CIA-Contra Drug Trafficking
It was long said that the CIA was heavily involved in the escalation of the drug epidemic. Allegations ranged from the presence of drug ties to the Contra rebels, to possible direct involvement in drug trafficking by the Contras and even members of the CIA. As expected, the CIA denies involvement in the drug trade. Released in 1986 are members of the Reagan administration admitting to connections with the Contra rebels due to the Contra's increased need for financial aid from the United States.
The 80's end with Bush
When George H.W. Bush was elected president in 1988, he was faced with continuing almost 20 years of the War on Drugs. To help clean things up, Bush created the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) in 1989 and appoints William Bennett as his first "drug czar." Bennett vowed that he would make drug abuse socially unacceptable.
There is also a Forbes magazine article in 1989 listing Pablo Escobar as the seventh-richest man in the world. Incredible.
Bush ended 1989 with a legitimate bang. Starting on December 20, 1989, the United States launched Operation Just Cause with their invasion of Panama. Their goal was to remove the de facto dictator and general of Panama, Manuel Noriega from power. It was successfully done and Noriega was convicted in 1992 on eight counts of drug trafficking, money laundering and racketeering, and sentenced to 40 years in prison. He would only serve 15 of those 40 years.
The Lasting Effects
When the 90's came, President Bush continued to spend money to aid the epidemic in America. During the Clinton presidency, billions of more dollars was spent for aid and suppression of the war, but to no avail. The 80's drug era is gone, but the war on drugs seems to be everlasting. Smuggling hasn't ended and nor has the use and abuse of the aforementioned recreational drugs.
Forty years of a war ravaging America every single day.